How Shared Spaces Affect the Safe Transit of Persons with Visual Impairment

How Shared Spaces Affect the Safe Transit of Persons with Visual Impairment

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The White Cane is the global symbol of independence and mobility for blind and partially sighted persons. On Saturday 15 October we celebrate its importance for White Cane Safety Day. The ability to move freely on one’s own has been an integral cause of the blindness movement since its inception, and it continues to be one of the most important global causes for blind and partially sighted people today.

Everyone’s safe transit must always be considered as environments are being updated. An example of an emerging challenge is the issue of safe transit through shared spaces such as streets or places designed to improve pedestrian movement and comfort.

Penny Hartin, CEO of the World Blind Union (WBU) said “Traveling independently across the multiple transportation routes can be very frightening without adequate tactile and audio cues and it should not be assumed by city planners that everyone can travel through these spaces by simply making eye contact with each other” she added.

Luckily the white cane can help improve this situation as it makes it clear in a positive and internationally acknowledged way to others that the person using the white cane is blind but can still confidently travel independently. However, we cannot solely rely on people to respect and acknowledge white canes or even guide dogs. The mobility needs of all persons with disabilities, including blind and partially sighted persons, must be taken into account from the very first stages of design and creation of shared spaces.

The WBU has developed a position statement on shared spaces and it outlines best practices for city planners and other stakeholders when planning, designing and implementing shared spaces. Overall, the statement emphasises the need for consultation with blindness organisations throughout all stages of the process and if this consultation is missing, we then encourage blindness organisations to advocate against the installation of a shared space. Click here to  learn more about shared spaces and good design and implementation principles.

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